How Ignoring Advice Actually Strengthens My Relationship

I met my husband on the campus of the University of South Carolina my freshman year of college. It was annoyance at first sight. No pick-up lines but a series of questions to challenge how well I knew the city of Columbia. Boredom or the challenge of future pop quizzes led to a phone number exchange. 20 later, I know answering his questions was one of the smartest things I've ever done. The second smartest thing I've done is ignoring relationship advice from well-meaning family and friends.

Everything around us continues to evolve, yet many people still give and listen to outdated relationship advice. What is even more amazing to me is the number of people who will solicit advice without the context of your situation or who aren't even in relationships. I've successfully navigated my relationship by learning when to tune out outside chatter. Here's the advice that didn't work for me.

"Let the breadwinner take care of you."

I quit my job to move to Chicago with husband, who recently accepted a new job. I was told by many people to not rush into my job search and enjoy the perks of someone taking care of me. I listened as I scrolled through job listings on my computer. I knew opting for a simpler life would not work well for our relationship. On my career journey, he has coached me into roles I once thought unobtainable. If I chose not to work, I know I would have lived a life of regret and placed the blame on my partner instead of those who gave me the misguided advice.

"One happy spouse, one happy house."

There are studies that prove this thought process to be true, but read the fine print. Many of the couples surveyed are over the age of 50. Happiness in a modern-day relationship isn't one-sided. It is important to identify the things that bring your partner happiness. Once we had children, I can recount the eye rolls I gave my partner during discussions of upcoming work trips. I pictured my partner sleeping in lavish hotels and eating expensive dinners, while I stayed at home raising our children. One day, he admitted hating taking work trips because of my constant eye rolls. Pushing aside the advice I had been given by friends, I listened and made a point to eliminate my attitude on this topic, especially realizing work trips aren't vacations. I now receive calendar appointments weeks in advance, so I can plan for my mom to help with the children or I work to readjust my work schedule to ensure no one suffers when work trips arise. Two happy people equals a happier relationship.

They will cheat on you if . . .

Many fill in the blank with one or more of the following: you don't have enough sex, you don't do housework, you nag too much, or if you gain too much weight. Infidelity in my relationship is a topic that I refuse to invest time worrying about. How often you have sex, maintaining a clean home, being amicable, etc., depend on where you are in your life. The higher up the career ladder you climb, having or adopting children, the death of a family member, or even having a bad day can easily change how you rank your priorities and change the dynamic of your relationship. Realigning expectations and communicating them to your partner is key. If my partner decides to cheat on me, I believe infidelity is a choice, and not something I caused.

Relationships require work. I've gone to bed angry (gasp!) and I've brought up old fights during new arguments. I'm not proud of these things, but I'm honest with myself. Our relationship doesn't work because I strive for perfection, it works because I can be myself. I spend more time talking to my partner instead of asking the opinions of others. I don't compare our relationship to anyone else's because I don't know what goes on behind their closed doors. We have worked to build a true partnership, and we have the final say in what's best for us.